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>> Finding true love in Bollywood

Finding true love in Bollywood

Finding true love in Bollywood

Winnie Mehta knows she has already met the love of her life - until it all goes wrong. Now, she is determined to carve her own fortune and not let fate get in the way...Author NISHA SHARMA tells us more about MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE!

Winnie Mehta has been brought up with the prediction that she will meet the love of her life before she turns 18. Her boyfriend, Raj, ticks all the boxes - until he tries to make her forget her dreams of working in film. So how can he be The One?

Using her encyclopaedic knowledge of Bollywood movies, Winnie is determined to get her life in order, despite a jealous ex who is determined to win her back and a prediction that, he thinks, says he will. This time, Winnie is determined to create her own future...

We asked author NISHA SHARMA to tell us more about Bollywood, her favourite films and writing for representation:

Q: Have you always seen yourself as an author? Do you write full time or have other jobs too?

A: I see myself as a professional author. I publish my work, I engage with readers, and I dedicate as much of my time as I can to my craft.

However, I do have a full time job as well, because as many of us are aware, writing sometimes isn't a financially sustainable career. My day job, as I like to call it, is at a Fortune 15 technology company.

Q: What brought you into writing YA fiction?

A: I wrote 'My So-Called Bollywood Life' as part of my MFA thesis. When I first came up with the idea, I knew that Winnie's voice was best suited for a YA novel. However, the writing process for Bollywood Life, and my adult romance 'The Takeover Effect,' is relatively the same. Just different characters and story.

Q: Do you write YA with purposeful intent to share your culture with your readership?

A: Absolutely. I firmly believe that writers should write stories that they would like to read themselves. I couldn't find fiction that represented my upbringing when I grew up, so I like to incorporate my rich South Asian culture into my stories.

Q: Your novel references a lot of Bollywood movies. How big a part of your life has Bollywood been?

A: Bollywood is a huge presence for Hindi-speakers in India, and across the world. Whether people prefer to watch Bollywood cinema, or not, it's hard to avoid.

For me, I never avoided Bollywood movies, and in fact, embraced them. Some of my most treasured memories as a kid was watching Sholay after Thanksgiving dinner or spending time with my family by going to the theater to catch the latest Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster.

Q: Which three movies would you recommend to novices to discover this world?

A: That's a hard question, and honestly, it depends on the types of movies you enjoy watching. Bollywood is exactly like Hollywood in the sense that it has a multitude of subgenres.

Fortunately, I have mini-reviews and ratings in the back of my book for those new to Bollywood so that they can choose for themselves!

Q: Winnie, the protagonist in My So-Called Bollywood Life, sees her life through the lens of Bollywood movies. Did anything specific help inspire this idea?

A: Because our world is becoming more and more exposed to Bollywood movies, the name of the Hindi language film industry is starting to become a catch-all phrase for anything overly dramatic.

I wanted to take that concept and explore it further by creating a character who not only had an overly dramatic personality, but related her drama specifically to film. That's how Winnie was born.

Q: The book focuses on a prophecy that Winnie receives as a child about who she is destined to spend her life with. It's a high concept found in a lot of Bollywood movies. Do you feel like you are 'rewriting' a Bollywood film?

A: In a way, I wanted the book to mirror the dramatic turn of events that occur in Bollywood movies, because that's the way that Winnie sees her life. I didn't feel like I was rewriting a Bollywood movie, so much as paying homage to the style itself, and to the films that really made an impact on me as a child. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun with the story.

Q: Winnie also learns to be her own 'hero' - in today's #MeToo movement, do you feel the film industry is taking heed? Are there signs of change in today's Bollywood films?

A: I think Winnie always knew she had to be her own hero. That was sort of something she accepted from the get-go, which I thought was a vital part of her characterization. She also was pretty aware of how disparaging Bollywood films could be when portraying female characters.

I think that with the sexual revolution that India is currently going through, there is a lot more importance given to female roles. We have all female casts, lesbian heroines fighting against societal norms, as well as female freedom fighter biopics. However, we still have a long way to go (both Hollywood and Bollywood), starting with actor pay equity and the consistent sexualization of the female body on screen.

Q: Winnie has a blog where she reviews films and has plenty to say about Bollywood movies - what for you are the highs and lows of the industry's output?

A: I think Bollywood has changed in the last few years, and honestly, I've been disappointed. A significant percentage of the industry's major releases, or block busters, have been either remakes, or politically driven stories that don't reflect the change occurring in the country.

Luckily, grassroots films have really shined and an amazing burst of talent from independent houses have carried the torch.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about any progress on the film of My So-Called Bollywood Life?

A: I would love to, but I'm still sworn to secrecy! I'm hoping to reveal some fantastic details in the next few months so stay tuned!

Q: How did you feel when you found out who had bought the rights, given the mentions in the book?

A: I actually rewrote the book to include the mentions of the filmmakers after they had already taken an interest in the story.

I think part of my reasoning for doing so is because it was a nod to the wonderful feedback they'd given, and because after meeting with them, I knew instantly that this was the type of person that Winnie would want to work for.

Q: Where and when are your favourite places and times to write?

A: My favorite place to write is in my home office, or in a coffee shop late at night or right before the sun rises when it's blissfully quiet. I honestly rarely ever get that luxury though. Most of the time, I'm writing whenever I can squeeze a few moments in during the day between working, and home life.

Q: Do you have more YA novels planned?

A: I just finished writing my second YA novel. It's tentatively titles 'Radha's Recipe for Bollywood Beats' which most likely will change, but that's what I've been calling it.

It's definitely different from 'My So-Called Bollywood Life' because it's a lot more serious, and it's about a classical dancer and a Bollywood dancer teaming up to compete in a Bollywood dance competition.

Q: Outside of movies, you're obviously a foodie - what are your top three Indian meals?

A: I am a foodie! I love pani puri (these amazing puffed shells with chickpeas, potatoes, onions, chutney stuff inside, that you dip into spiced water), aloo parantha (potato stuffed flatbread that my mom makes), and my favorite, chole bathure (fried bread with chickpea curry).

Q: What else do you do to relax when you're away from your keyboard?

A: When I'm not traveling to eat at amazing restaurants or in fantastic cities with my husband, I devour romance novels. I'm pretty basic, honestly.

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